BHS-CRHS football Thursday at CR; Hooray for Debbie and Jake Sharp; CCSPCA Second Chance; Pizza Hut for Holly Heights; Wine tasting at Village on High, Amish Market; Big Bear Swamp not on tourist list?! Be what you advertise to tourists; Karen Cox is Mensa-qualified

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The column that says there is a reason your dentist fills two cavities at one time, because one visit semi-annually is enough to take from a hammer looking for a nail, and we kept our streak alive by telling yet another dental assistant to get a life by becoming an RN, and we got to meet Karen Cox, who could join Mensa tomorrow if she so chooses.

By Jack Hummel

Radio: 92.1 FM WVLT Saturdays noon to 2 p.m.

Email: jhummel9794@gmail.com

Phone: 856-237-6645

U.S. Army: RA13815980

Google all columns at jackhummelblog

Good evening!

Bridgeton High and Cumberland Regional meet in the Colt Corral on Love Lane at 6 p.m. on Thursday.

A football rivalry!

It just fell that way this season because of their records.

It’s divine intervention.

If you didn’t vote in this election, you’ll still have a chance to go to heaven.

If you didn’t see a scared senator or representative today, we didn’t get the job done.

And if you don’t know the top 10 special interest groups hovering over Washington like bats or invading the city like locusts looking for a crop, you need to go back to school.

“A HUGE shoutout to Deborah and Jake Sharp for all the work they did to convert an unused shed on my property to a safe, dry shelter for feral cats.

“They worked tirelessly yesterday and I know the cats will appreciate it as much as I do!”

— Linda Eisenberg

A woman with a big heart and a son who broadcasts the Miami Dolphins!

Can you pronounce Ajayi?

CCSPCA Second Chances:

“Cami is an 8-year-old, front-declawed tabby. She came in released by her owners and is having a rough time adjusting to life at the shelter.

“She lived in the home with other cats. Due to space constraints and Cami’s level of stress- we can not guarantee any time frame for her.

“The other cat was surrendered as well and we were able to transfer him back to the original rescue he was adopted from. Unfortunately, they were not able to take both cats.

“Email ccspca_rescue@yahoo.com.”

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CAMI

Why cook dinner tomorrow?

Go to Pizza Hut in Vineland between 5 and 8 p.m. tomorrow and Pizza Hut will generously donate $1 to $2 for every buffet bought to Holly Heights School to fund trips and events throughout the year.

It’s the only way we’re going to fund the things that really matter in school.

The things that get some kids out of thinking their world is only 6 square blocks big.

A play.

A Sixers game.

Franklin Institute.

In the meantime, public school teachers will continue to be buried in paperwork so deep, they don’t have time to teach.

The paperwork is to show the DOE nothing that will help the kids.

Get the hell out of education, Trenton!

We can take it from here in our county, in our community, in our school.

Drink up, Millville!

Saturday, Nov. 12, is going to be a great night in the Village on High!

Second Saturday Wine Taste from 6-8 p.m.

Fall bonfire from 6-10 p.m.

Combo tickets available to enjoy both events for $25

See An Octopus’ Garden or the Royal Leaf for your tickets!

Did you know the Amish Market in Hopewell Township as wine tasting every Thursday, Friday and Saturday?

Makes you wonder if Jonas King is going grow a grape arbor.

You accomplish what is expected of you.

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GONE AT THE V IN NEWPORT.

“Don’t worry about the tree being gone.

“People will still use it as a landmark for giving directions, as in, ‘You make a left turn where the old tree used to be.’

“They’ll do the same thing for Gum Tree Corner.”

— Sam Feinstein

 —

Why is the following not the most impressive landmark in Cumberland County for tourists?

Why does it not draw 10,000 visitors with guides a year?

Bear Swamp is a swamp in Cumberland County notable for its 215 acres of old-growth forestscand the birds they contain. It is divided into two areas, Bear Swamp East and Bear Swamp West, separated from each other by gravel mines and roads.

Bear Swamp West contains broadleaf swamp forest dominated by black gum, American sweetgum, red maple and sweetbay magnolia.

Other trees present are American beech, swamp white oak and American holly.

Some 100 acres of this forest is old-growth filled with trees of impressive sizes and ages. The black gum are nearly 4 feet in diameter and 600 years old.

The sweetgum again nearly 4 feet in diameter, and 300 years old. The red maple are over 4 feet in diameter. The American holly are particularly large, reaching 22 inches in diameter and 80 feet tall.

Bear Swamp East is in Belleplain State Forest.

It has forests similar to Bear Swamp West, but with large Tulip Poplar on hummocks, some reaching 5 feet in diameter and 400 years of age.

As many as 30 bald eagles nest in the swamp.

— Wikipedia

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Brian Johnson is the Preserve Manager for the natural lands trust and explains how in older trees the barks texture will change during a tour through Bear Swamp on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2014. (Staff Photo by Jesse Bair/South Jersey Times)

A little history.

Feb.23, 2014

The primeval forest is starkly beautiful in winter, with its centuries-old trees towering bare and skeletal hundreds of feet above the boggy floor of the Bear Swamp, one of New Jersey’s last remaining old-growth forests.

Nestled in an obscure, low-lying pocket of Dividing Creek, between Ackley Road and Route 553, among abandoned sand-mining pits and a short distance from the estuarine meadows of Dividing Creek, are about two hundred non-contiguous acres of trees that took root centuries before the founding of America.

Known colloquially for years as the bear swamp, the land was purchased and marked for permanent preservation some 15 years ago by the Natural Lands Trust, a nationwide non-profit that now manages the tract as part of its larger holding, the Glades Wildlife Refuge.

The wood itself is like something out of legend.

Hundreds of ancient hollies, usually a lower-growth tree but grown to canopy height over the centuries, ring a swampy tangle of bog that is rich in diversity of species. Massive black gum and sweet gum trees rise high above the newer growth that thrives on the hilly uplands above the swamp.

“The depth of the ridges on the bark is a good indication of the age of the black gums,” said Brian Johnson, preserve manager for the Natural Lands Trust. He points to a particularly massive specimen like an old friend, the ridges on the bark several inches deep.

“This tree is probably 300 years old,” he adds.

Nearby tulip poplars compete for sunlight. Younger than the gums but faster-growing, their columnar trunks rise 50 or more feet into the air, straight and bare. In the spring they take on pale flowers that bloom high above the ground and splash the upper forest with color.

Elsewhere in the tangle stand red maples, large but dwarfed by the gums, and even the state record sweetbay magnolia.

At the peak of the canopy mistletoe crowns the tops of the eldest trees, some of them more than four centuries old, verdant diadems that contrast with the austere splendor of the denuded winter wood.

“It’s an extremely rare plant in New Jersey,” Johnson said of the mistletoe. “It seems to grow almost exclusively on the black gum trees.”

Far beneath the canopy, the forest floor is soft and spongy, water flowing freely in many places despite the recent weeks of mostly sub-freezing. Gnarled roots interweave the boggy ground, largely bare of undergrowth besides the occasional gnarl of green briar.

The forest is dense and secretive, the bogs and briars making it almost impenetrable in places, but the trees are so massive that even from a distance they loom large and imposing.

Aside from the magnificent trees, the swamp is home to an incredible diversity of animal life including many birds of prey. Owls, hawks and eagles reside among the ancient trees at various times and in varying numbers throughout the year.

One notable native is the barred owl, a secretive hunter that prefers to nest in the hollow trees of old-growth swamps and avoids humans when possible.

“Because of the age of the swamp and its isolated nature, along with all of the hollows, this is an ideal habitat for barred owls,” Johnson explained.

Many of the raptors are seasonal.

“This has been a good year for short eared owls and rough legged hawks,” Johnson notes. “It depends on the winter.”

Eagles can be ubiquitous. Early in the morning and just before sunset they can be seen moving, often in great numbers, between the abundant hunting grounds of the nearby meadows and upland fields that surround the swamp. In the late morning they often come back to the partially-reclaimed sand washes that encircle the swamp to bathe and sun themselves on the gravel bluffs.

The return of the eagles is a welcome development. As recently as the 1980s there was a single pair of nesting bald eagles in Bear Swamp, the only known pair left in the state; today a patient visitor can see upward of 20 mature specimens over the course of one day in the swamp alone.

Recently, a rare-for-the-area golden eagle has even joined the surging population bald eagles.

But winter is not the only splendid season amid the old-growth. In the spring songbirds flit through the verdant under-forest in great numbers while the entire wood blooms fecund and green.

Beneath it all move deer, foxes and coyotes, raccoons, all manner of things except, apparently, the swamp’s namesake.  “I haven’t seen any signs of bear,” Johnson said wryly.

People rarely enter, though visitors are more common now than they were in the days before Natural Lands Trust took control of the property. The area is open to hikers, birders and anyone else each day from dawn to dusk, and a number of deer hunters are issued permits each year in a bid to control the whitetail population.

Finding the groves of old-growth can be tricky without a knowledgeable guide however, and the trek takes more than an hour from the closest access point, a nearly imperceptible, ribbon-marked trail just off of the railroad track on Railroad Avenue in Dividing Creek.

Even that trail fades away before reaching the old growth, and visitors are forced to wend their way through an undulating stretch of hummocks and low hills and navigate around the ever present bogs and shifting streams of water that trickle from the swamp into the nearby ponds.

For those adventurous enough to make the attempt, the trip is well worth it, whatever the season.

How much longer there will be a reason to visit however, is very much in doubt. Despite standing and thriving for centuries without any help from humans, and despite the bets efforts of the Natural Lands Trust, the ancient swamp may not survive the coming decades.

“The trees are healthy, but the big threat is salt water because the swamp is interconnected,” said Johnson. “Some of the big trees are already dead before their time, and there are more and more every year.”

Salt water intrusion, in part a consequence of rising sea levels, is a common threat to forests across the Delaware bayshore region; as tides rise and salty waters penetrate further inland, trees that took root in what were once fast lands are submerged and slowly die.

The resulting dead woods are known as ghost forests, and can be found all along the marshes that mark the verge between the Delaware Bay and the uplands.

The Natural Lands Trust has been trying to work with the state to enhance the flood control structures along 553 in an effort to slow the encroachment of salt water and preserve what is left of the old-growth, and effort that is ongoing.

“Only time will tell,” said Johnson.

The old-growth forests of the Bear Swamp seem to be a land frozen in time, a recollection of what much of South Jersey must have looked like when the earliest European settlers came.

How much time the splendid woods have left is unknown. In a few decades trees that have survived centuries may succumb to the encroachment of the sea, becoming yet more ghosts of a time when all of New Jersey was wild.

— Philip Tomlinson

We’re not talking a Dunkin’ Donuts here, but where else can you find history like this?

If you’re going to brand your community with something like “biggest historic district” or ”culinary arts district,” then you have to deliver that access with everything you have or you’re not going to draw anybody.

Don’t say what doesn’t stand out, but what does, like a huge park and a fabulous zoo.

Nobody else has these.

Then work to death to make them attractive to visitors. To allure so much foot traffic, you want to join the party. To make it another Texas Roadhouse on a Friday night, every weekend.

“Biggest historic district” is not getting us anything because what is sizzle isn’t any bigger than other places.

YOU CAN BOOK IT: We don’t want Steve Paul of the Bridgeton Main Street Association to get burned out because we know he’s genuine and not using Bridgeton as a stepping stone, just like Debbi Boykin-Greenberg, who has deeper roots in Bridgeton than the 80-foot trees in Bear Swamp.

 

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BHS-CRHS football Thursday at CR; Hooray for Debbie and Jake Sharp; CCSPCA Second Chance; Pizza Hut for Holly Heights; Wine tasting at Village on High, Amish Market; Big Bear Swamp not on tourist list?! Be what you advertise to tourists; Karen Cox is Mensa-qualified

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